Boitumelo Vero Rikhotso

Destined for greatness!

24 hours in Zanzibar (Part 2) September 6, 2019

Fish

You only have a day to explore this spice island. So much to do and see, so little time. What to do? Part 1 of this post can be found here.

1. Forodhani Park

My day started at 8am at Forodhani. Public park by day and street food market by night. I landed after 17:00 and after checking-in, this was my first port of call. The place is buzzing with food enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. If there’s one food item to have, it would have to be the Zanzibar Pizza which is nothing like the pizza we are used know. It is made on a large flat round sheet-pan like surface right before your eyes. I took a video but I am using a free version of WordPress which doesn’t play video. A snippet of the video is available here. You can have the pizza as a savoury or sweet treat. Mr Big Banana’s stall was highly recommended so I went to him for my savoury pizza and to Mr Nutella for the sweet one. Both were good. You can down your pizza with freshly squeezed cane sugar juice which is generously infused with lime and ginger for like TS1000 (R6). Forget the calories. The short clip of the making of this sugarcane juice can be viewed here. Other food items like seafood, bread, fried rice and barbecue kebabs are on sale. It’s best you come with local currency here to get good prices although they do accept US Dollars. Had I stuck to the negative reviews on TripAdvisor I would not have come to this market. So glad I went.

 

2. Stone Town walking tour

Salim was my guide for this tour and had A LOT of information to share with me on the island. We walked for about 3 hours and I didn’t even realise it. Due to my time restrictions, I didn’t get to see the whole town, something to do next time. The own is a maze of narrow streets where one can easily get lost but we’ll call it an adventure. The temperature between the little roads is cool which I’m told has to do with the limestone used to construct the buildings hence the name, Stone Town. I was fixated on the doors of Stone Town. I probably delayed the tour since I had to stop and admire the different doors throughout the town. Simply mesmerising. There are about five different types of doors (E.g. Indian, Arabic etc…) one can find in Stone Town each with various meanings hidden in the carved wood symbols. This deserves a post on its own. There is a lot to see and learn in this town. We also walked past the former birth home of Farrokh Bulsara otherwise famously known as Freddie Mercury. 

 

3. Visit the Markets

One can visit markets in Zanzibar tot Piet kom. You can visit the fish, meat, spice, craft and artisan markets. I have to be honest when we came to the fish and meat markets I couldn’t believe anyone came here to shop. It was packed, there were flies and basically, hygiene didn’t seem to be a thing most were concerned with. Either way, it was a great experience. I’m told if you do a cooking class as one of your excursions, it usually starts here. So you would come to the market to pick your ingredients and end up cooking special Zanzibari dishes. Zanzibar or Tanzania, in general, is home to good quality masai blankets, chitenge fabrics and kangas. Here you will simply be spoilt for choice.  You can find fabrics from as low as TS15 000 (R95) for 6 yards (5.5m). Way cheaper than the R250 / R300 we usually buy them for in South Africa and Botswana. Note to self to have sufficient luggage space next time I am here.

 

4. Make a stop at the East African Slave Trade Exhibit 

My visit here was a little rushed, from my end. I would love to spend more time here the next time I come because the history is intriguing. Whenever I’m confronted by such horrific stories I can’t believe how resilient a people we are. We have been through the most as the black race and still we rise. The guide shared a long history with me about how slavery came about. He also mentioned that at first, no one was kidnapped or forced or chained into slavery. Apparently, people knew what they were getting themselves into and this was simply their way of providing for their families since they were not treated like slaves although they worked hard labour. Over time with the changes in leadership on the island and the rise of the illegal ivory trade, then slavery became business and people would be brought to the island to work without their consent and treated in the most inhumane ways. I still have to read a lot on this. There are a lot of boards with the full history and since they were many, I couldn’t read them all. I will update the post as I get verified information. In the same facility, you will also get a chance to visit the Anglican Cathedral whose altar is built on the very spot where the slave trade used to take place. A lot more can be said about the church and its involvement in slavery. Rich, rich history here.

 

5. Prison Island / Changuu Island

Then followed a 25-minute boat ride to Prison island whose real name is Changuu island, about 5km to the north-west of Stone Town. The island  (Changuu) is named after a fish commonly eaten in Tanzania. The island was meant to imprison misbehaving slaves and other criminals but it never was used for that purpose. It instead became a quarantine station and hospital facility for endemic diseases, mainly yellow fever since Stone Town was serving as East Africa’s main trade port in the 1860’s.

This island is also home to the Aldabra giant tortoises which live for hundreds of years. They are a beauty to behold. The biggest one in body size in the sanctuary is 160 years old, while the oldest is 194 years old. Yes, human years. They apparently love massages so I made sure I did my bit. Local belief is that they live long because they are so slow. The guide told me that as the human race we can learn a lot from them on their ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) approach to life since we are always in a hurry and never take time to rest or take things slowly. This spoke volumes to me.

 

6. Snorkel

Snorkelling is a fairly new concept to me. This was my second time snorkelling and given that I am not a confident swimmer, the experience was a lot more pleasant compared to my first experience in Grenada which you can read about here. I saw a lot of beautiful coral and a few fish. But there weren’t much species of fish on display mostly because of where we docked. A few kilometres in, closer to Bawe island, we could have had better spectacle but I was time chasing so 30 minutes of playing around enough. Check out the short clip here.

 

7. Nakupenda Beach

This beach is heaven on earth. Truly beautiful. The sandbank whose name means ‘I love you’ in Swahili fulfilled all my beach fascinations. Crystal clear blue waters, soft white sand and tranquillity – simply glorious. There were a lot of people but it was not overcrowded at all. It can get completely submerged depending on the tides. The water is spectacular and I picked up some really nice seashells. The tour came with lunch that is prepared right on the beach. I’m amazed at how clean this place is given that so many guides cook and bring so many people here.  The locals take great pride in their country and keep it clean. Salim said to me ‘If we don’t keep it clean, tourists will not come and we will not have jobs. Besides, it is God’s creation and we have a responsibility to look after it,’ What more can I say? Simply pristine.

 

8. Nungwi Beach (Kendwa Rocks)

Since this was my last activity for the day, and the time was about 15:00, I had a choice between Nungwi (65km North) and Paje Beach (50km East). Paje was closer especially looking at the time, but I opted for Nungwi beach because most reviews on the net said that Nungwi was the best beach in Zanzibar. Needless to say, I was left underwhelmed. Perhaps because I had just returned from Nakupenda beach which was heavenly. Make no mistake, it is a beautiful long beach with a buzz of activity but it was not the crystal clear blue waters and white sands I was expecting. Well… Turns out I was actually NOT at Nugwi beach after all. So post my trip I had to give feedback to the Tour company I used and Aisha made it clear that the beach I was taken to was in fact Kendwa Rocks and not Nungwi Beach although they are not too far apart. She said though that Kendwa had a better beach compared to Nungwi so I cannot say much on that since I was not there. I will hold my comments until I go to Nungwi and then give my own assessment. I’ll have to explore other beaches next time but as far as beaches go, and compared to the few I’ve seen around the world in my little travel escapades, Kendwa Rocks beach, is NOT on my top 5. It is a lovely beach to just laze around, play some basketball and sunbathe for those interested in that sort of thing. There are a number of hotels along the seashore so perfect in that sense. The beach was packed, so much so that the road leading up to the beach (bad road) was so full of cars and taxis it was hard to get to the beach. Although it was overcrowded, because it is a very long stretch, one can find a spot away from the masses. The strangest thing was that each random person I spoke to knew I was from South Africa. They said I have ‘the look.’ At this beach you will also meet a lot of the Maasai tribe playing volleyball, selling some crafts and dancing, not forgetting jumping sky high! Such kind-hearted people. They promised to teach me all about their culture on my next visit.  At the end of it all, people love beaches for different things so do check it out when you are in Zanzibar.

 

9. Have Gelato

It is an open secret that I follow the KETO way of eating, but I allow myself exceptions for trips since trying local food is a must during my explorations. The gelato was, of course, nothing like URI’s Gelato which you can find in Lynwood, PRETORIA, but it was delish! Thanks to Chantal & Chris Trainor and Vicky (My gelato squad) for introducing me to Uri.

 

10. Be a beach bum

I love the beach period. I am always therefore on the hunt for more and more exotic beach escapades. My budget has other ideas though, but I ain’t gon’ let that stop me. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. In Zanzibar, there are beaches galore on all four corners of the island. I will explore more beaches on my next visit which will hopefully be longer than 24 hours. The below pics were taken on the beach outside my hotel.  Lovely place to watch the sunset, sit and reflect on life, watch guys play soccer and meet complete strangers who make you realise how alike we actually are as a people worldwide. This also reminded how small I am relative to the universe and how I should not have a self-centred approach to life in such a way that I am out of touch with the real world out there. One of the greatest part of my galavanting is talking to people and hearing their stories, their histories what makes their hearts go aflame. Life’s simple pleasures!

 

Overall I know my pictures are not the best. Don’t worry, I will get better with time. Taking pictures is something I actually forget to do and something I actually do not like to do because I just love being in the moment but I realise the importance of taking you on my journey through pics.

 

Cost for the tour: TS 220 000 (R1 500). I usually do my own excursions but I decided to book a tour guide this time and I cannot complain since I had to do a lot in a day and needed people who knew where to take me, and quickly. The cost included transport to and from the hotel, drive to and from Kendwa Rocks, all entry fees at the places of interest, excursions, snorkel equipment, water and lunch on Nakupenda beach. I used Friendly Taxi & Tours for this tour.

 

24 hours in Zanzibar (Part 1) September 4, 2019

On a recent work trip to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, I decided that I wasn’t coming so close to Zanzibar and leaving without setting foot on it. The only problem? Time! I had only two nights to spend there and I wanted to see as much as I could. Here are my recommendations of what you can do in Zanzibar in one day if you’re up for some really fast-paced adventure.
Ok, first a short story about my flights. I flew on ZanAir and had to go into an office to check-in. Hint number two I would be flying in a small aeroplane. Did you read that correctly? Not a check-in counter with conveyer belts. Nope! An actual office. I handed my passport over to a lady who was working behind an office desk. My bag was taken by an elderly gentleman to go weigh it I assumed since they were speaking in KiSwahili. When my eyes followed the bag as it was leaving the office, she abruptly chimed in, ‘he’s going to weigh it.’ A number was mentioned. Something about ‘mbini’ which I assumed possibly meant twenty or something to do with (2) since it was quite heavy but I don’t know for sure and I didn’t want to ask because my weight allowance was 15kg. Hint number one that I would be flying in a small aeroplane. I waited to be told I had to pay for excess baggage and when she didn’t but rather gave me a store-like looking receipt which she said was a boarding pass (pictured below), I knew this was going to be quite an experience. As I walked past my bag which wasn’t tagged standing there in an orphaned state, she decided to offer me some relief ‘It’s ok. Don’t worry. We will take care of your bag.’ I said a little prayer and off I went through to the departure lounge. Quite smaller than I expected. I went to one of the windows to ask what happened now and I was told that an announcement would be made and either my flight number or my name would be called to board the aircraft. My name? Do you mean I could be travelling on an aeroplane all by myself? 😳 ‘Yes’ he said with a smile. ‘It happens.’ This will be interesting… I settled into a quaint coffee shop, bought a ridiculously priced Swahili phrasebook and had me a lovely cuppa.
13
Upon approaching the aircraft, I saw a couple with a boy child and one other gentleman and just like that, we were a party of 5 and a half including the Captain. And guess what position I was honoured with? 1st Officer. I don’t care who says what. All I know is that if it happens that I do not get my CPL, or PPL at the very least, this will go down memory lane as the day I was 1st Officer on a Cessna 207 for approximately 25 minutes of pure exhilaration. That’s my story and I am sticking to it. Oh did I mention that my backpack was placed in the nose of the aircraft? I felt a sudden panic attack come over me since the backpack contained my life (Work laptop, iPad, wallet, work permits, passports etc…) so when we landed at Abeid Amani Karume International Airport after battling some hectic crosswinds at the much capable hands of this former airforce pilot, I was happy to be reunited with my backpack.
My checked-in bag – nowhere to be found. Oh no! I asked the captain and he told me ‘hakuna matata’ a phrase I would hear a hundred times before leaving the spice island. He said to go into the terminal building and that someone would explain everything to me.  At the baggage claim belt, a gentleman stood  with my bag. Huge sigh of relief! It had a Coastal Air sticker on it so it got a lift from a different airline that departed before ours.

On my return, however, new challenges awaited me. I had a 10:30 departure out of Dar es Salaam to Johannesburg which I could NOT afford to miss. I therefore ensured I was on the first flight out of Zanzibar at 07:15 so that I would be in Dar by 07:45 and by 08:00 I would be outside the old domestic terminal building calling an Uber to drive me to the new terminal building. See? Perfect plan. The taxi was scheduled to pick me up at 06:15 from the hotel so that you know? No rush. At exactly 04:10 though, I was rudely awakened by rain. Yes rain. Do you see where the problem is here? Hello! Hint– Rain, Cessna 207, departure 07:15. See the problem? I could not shut an eyelid from then on. I started to pray. This time I wasn’t so lucky with the luggage although the weight was exactly the same. $16 excess baggage later, I looked outside to more gloomy weather. At this point I tried to online check-in again for Air Tanzania since I had failed a night before – alas – mathata. When the watch hit 07:35 with no announcement of my flight, panic set in. I prayed some more. Two flights departed as I waited for the weather to clear (Me telling myself. Kana I am a pseudo pilot now). As the watch approached 0745, I felt a tap on the shoulder and an agent from ZanAir informed me that I would be flying on a different plane with a different airline since I was the only passenger on ZanAir and there was a technical issue with the plane. Wowza! And there I was missing my solo trip back to Dar. I then flew back with Auric Air on the Cessna Grand Caravan (C208B) and we were a party of about 10. At the end of it all, I arrived in good time for my connection. 

I’ll then move to other admin details so that part 2 of the blog is purely about the excursions.

Currency
Tanzanian Shillings are the currency of use in Zanzibar although US Dollars are also widely accepted. Ensure though that if you bring your greenbacks they are the ones printed after 2006 since any printed before will not be accepted. When I was there the rate was $1 = TS 2 300 = R15.
Accommodation
I used booking dot com to reserve my accommodation. If you book your accommodation with them and use my referral by clicking this link, you will get 10% off your booking.
For ease of excursions when pressed for time, my recommendation is that you stay in or very close to Stone Town since activities are centred around the city and tours to other islands depart from Stone Town. If you want some real quiet time out into nature, then you can head on to the north, east or south where you can lose yourself in the ample deep blue seas on offer – something I did not quite get to do much of – next time, soon! If your budget allows, you can also stay at one of the other smaller islands off the Stone Town coast such as Bawe or Chapwani Islands.  I stayed at the Zanzibar Ocean View Hotel where my accommodation was $60 (R850) per night. I chose this place because it has a nice quiet beach and it was about 7 seven minutes drive to Stone Town.  
Transport
You can use a flight or a ferry from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. The air ticket costs about R1000 – R1500 for a return trip and the airport is about a 7 minutes drive to Stone Town, a trip that will cost you about $10 (R150) with a taxi, a bit pricy for such a short trip. But you can negotiate your price.. If you are using a ferry from Dar es Salaam which takes about two hours at a cost of $35 (R520) for economy, and $60 (R850) for royal class, you’ll be glad to know it also docks in Stone Town. If you are flying from South Africa, you can use Mango Airlines (that’s if you can get a seat since tickets are often sold out) which has direct flights three times a week (Tue, Thu, Sat) at around give or take R9 000 a round trip.
Alrighty then, now that the admin stuff is out of the way, check out Part 2 on what to do if you only have 24 hours in Zanzibar.